Archive for cholera

Help/Harm

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by rgwallace

Many of us only reluctantly accept one of life’s toughest lessons. In the course of doing our very best to make a better world–decades all blood, sweat and tears in the face of hideous odds–we may discover we really fouled up things this time. The road to hell, etc., etc.

Never realizing our mistakes, however, is a far worse fate. No course correction or critical realignment is otherwise possible. And the march below can be made double time when those more wily than we–recognizing our errors in judgment and failures in character for what they are–use our self-serving self-righteousness to their advantage.

There are still uglier routes. The humanitarianism industry, for one, fighting cholera in Haiti here, housing Sudanese refugees there, consciously thrives on just such contradictions. Acquiring access to disasters and the cash flow to mount operations in response typically includes accepting the premises underlying the oppression that produces many of the victims on which the industry subsists.

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A Critical Moment in Influenza’s History

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2009 by rgwallace

Featherless ChickensI gave the following presentation last night at Give & Take, a show and tell for adults held at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. The organizers ask all presenters (and audience members) two questions: What do you know about? What do you want to know about? A lot of fun and a great learning experience. Other than the photo of the featherless chickens I show none of my slides here, but I think you’ll get the picture.

We begin with a visceral abomination. We recoil at the sight of these chickens bred for baldness. But we recoil for reasons other than those for flinching at mystery meats, for instance. We’re repulsed by the meat because we can’t connect our food to something identifiably organic.

Our featherless friends, on the other hand, seem a violation of temporality. We don’t expect the finished broiler—leg, breast, wings—to be walking about on its own. The sequence is all wrong.

You can imagine these as stars of your own personal Latourian nightmare. You’re dreaming you’re in your local supermarket—maybe only in your underwear, maybe not—and you watch these two birds walk down aisle 6 and hop right into a meats freezer. You look down into the freezer. Shivering birds “Hello, bok, bok, bok, I’m a red dot special! I’m a red dot special!” You wake up in a cold sweat with feathers from your pillow floating everywhere.

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Bird Flu’s Industrial Revolution

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by rgwallace

Public talks can be private affairs. In sharing our work we bare the triumphs and limits of a thinking born in long hours alone or with a few fellow conspirators sworn to secrecy. But in breaking our oaths we are able to take the next step.

In talking bird flu twice this past month I learned something new.

Much of the talk was dedicated to describing the role industrial poultry played in the evolution and diversification of highly pathogenic influenza, including H5N1, bird flu’s marquee star. The evidence is presently circumstantial, but for me offers a convincing working hypothesis:

  • A phylogenetic burst of influenzas capable of infecting humans coincided with the globalization of the industrial model of poultry: H5N1, H7N1, H7N3, H7N7, H9N2, in all likelihood H5N2 and perhaps some of the H6 serotypes.  Continue reading